Party Solidarity?

Full confession: I was a registered no party affiliation voter until the 2008 election and never thought I would ever be concerned with party solidarity of any kind. At that point, I wanted to vote in the Oregon primary and I registered as a Democrat so that I would automatically get a ballot in the mail. I had typically voted for Democrats anyway and given the magnitude of the 2008 election I wanted to put my full support behind the Democratic Party.

I watched the Democratic National Convention as Hillary and the New York delegation made their way down to a microphone to pledge their full support behind then-Senator Barack Obama. I was in tears, the keynote speech given by that young Senator from Illinois four years earlier at the 2004 Democratic National Convention the only other moment that compared at all.

I felt aligned with the Democratic Party that day when Hillary and the New York delegation put personal views aside in support of our democratic process. And when Barack Obama won, I wanted to believe we had turned a corner, even if it was only a nudge. Even the smallest ripple can achieve the greatest impact so I was encouraged. I had no idea the obstruction that would ensue.

And then eight years later, the worst possible thing happened. After what should have been a given, Hillary Clinton did not become our President. And now we’re watching a nightmare unfold before our very eyes.

Political parties elect people to run them. The Democrats elected Tom Perez and Keith Ellison to share that responsibility and both are more than qualified to do that job. When Hillary was named the Democratic nominee for President, Bernie Sanders appeared to grudgingly endorse her. Grudgingly because he never seemed fully invested in the endorsement. He had joined the Democratic Party when he was running for President, I assume to reap the benefits of their fundraising work which made sense given that he caucused with the Democrats in the Senate.

Senator Sanders and at least some of his supporters rightly want a voice in determining the platform of the Democratic Party. Progressive agendas should make every attempt to align as one voice and I support anyone’s desire for inclusion. But I’m not sure what Senator Sanders’ position really is now that he’s identifying once again as an Independent and seems unwilling to return to the Democratic Party. Why are he and Tom Perez traveling around the country together promoting party solidarity if he’s not going to be a Democrat?

I guess this is where I part company with Senator Sanders. As much as I like Hillary, I have Democratic Socialist leanings and had Bernie been the nominee I would have been thrilled to vote for him. But watching everything unfold over the campaign, both during the primary and after, I was very uncomfortable with his silence regarding the behavior of some of his supporters. I’ve never liked cheap shots and vitriol and I think they have no place in a Presidential election. But it was a constant during the last election, particularly on the opposing side, and those who behaved this way did nothing to elevate the conversation in my humble opinion.

So again, I wonder what Senator Sanders’s purpose really is in joining with Tom Perez. Is he there to bring his supporters on board? Or is he there to undermine the process? Because as we saw during the campaign, Senator Sanders’s silences speak volumes. Will his involvement really result in a joining of forces or will it result in something else? In other words, can the Democratic Party ever be liberal enough for Senator Sanders or is his involvement giving him endless opportunities to suggest that it’s not?

And what will the Democratic Party look like when all is said and done? Do we need a new name that reflects a more realistic view of who we are now? Some of this feels like stagecraft to me and maybe that’s not fair but if that’s what’s going on it’s going to backfire. And frankly, that’s the last thing we need.

Party solidarity is essential if we’re to undo the damage the current regime is causing. Progressives of all stripes need a seat at the table. Let’s just make sure that while the conversation continues and all voices are respected and heard we’re at least going in the same direction.

Originally published at on April 20, 2017.



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